So I’m in the back yard a few days ago, firing up my monthly Al Capone, when Neighbor calls to me from across the fence.
“YOU sure get up early,” Neighbor says.
I’m puzzled. It’s late afternoon. I have no idea why Neighbor is telling me, in a clear accusatory tone, that I sure get up early.
So I smoothly ask, “Huh?”
“YOU sure get up early,” Neighbor says again.
I drop the Al Capone to my side so as not to blow smoke in Neighbor’s face, and I move over to the fence.
“What do you mean?” I ask (thus smoothly expanding on my earlier theme of “Huh?”).
“I mean you’ve been getting up and going outside awfully early.”
I’m still puzzled. “Not that early. Barb and I walk the dogs down the road about 6:45 or so.”
Neighbor says, “No. You’ve been out between 5:00 and 5:30 several mornings in a row.”
This is not the case. So I explain to Neighbor that Barb gets up about 6:00 AM, or sometimes a few minutes earlier, and goes out to the end of the driveway to get the newspaper. So it’s Barb that Neighbor has been seeing in our driveway, although not quite as early as 5:00 or 5:30.
“No,” Neighbor says. “Not in your driveway. You’ve been walking between our houses.”
There’s about a 30-foot wide strip of grass between our houses, extending back from the street forty yards or so to our back-yard fences — where it dead-ends.
I’m beyond puzzled now. “Wait. You mean you’ve seen someone in that grassy area between our houses between 5:00 and 5:30 AM for several mornings?”
Neighbor gets up at 5:00 AM and goes into another room to change for work so as not to wake Neighbor’s spouse (who doesn’t have to be up for another hour). While in this changing room, which has a window facing the grassy strip, Neighbor has seen a man standing or walking between our houses, in the dark. Neighbor has assumed it’s me since my dogs haven’t barked at this person.
“You’re sure you aren’t seeing Barb in the driveway,” I say. “You’re sure it’s a man walking in the space between our houses.”
Neighbor insists this is the case. There has been a man. In the dark. Between our houses. While Neighbor is changing from pajamas to work clothes. Several pre-dawn mornings in a row. (I should point out that we live in a semi-rural area with no streetlights. The past several mornings, the only light outside has been from the moon and stars.)
So I tell Neighbor that there’s Good News and Bad News.
The Good News is that the Man in the Dark is not me. I am not a skulking Pervert trying to watch Neighbor dress for work.
The Bad News is also that the Man in the Dark is not me.
Which means somebody else around here is a skulking . . . well, maybe Pervert, maybe not . . . but definitely a skulking Creepy Trespasser.
“Now that I think of it,” Neighbor says, looking me over, “he’s slimmer than you.”
This marks the first time that I’ve actually been glad to have gained forty pounds in the past decade. Because if the Creepy Trespasser is slimmer than me, then at least Neighbor now knows the goddamn freak isn’t me.
And then, as Neighbor and I are talking, I have the sudden certainty that I know who it is.
There is a man in our area who is about my height and who also wears eyeglasses, but is considerably more slender. He lives alone, and I’ve often seen him walking through our neighborhood. In fact, I saw him walking almost daily, for a while. But I haven’t seen him walking recently — which makes me wonder if perhaps he’s started walking earlier. Like, much earlier. Like, before sunrise.
So I also find myself wondering if he might be the sort of person who would step off the street to walk up between two houses in the dark.
Now, if I’m right about the Creepy Trespasser’s identity, I’m pretty sure he’s harmless. I’ve seen him around for years, and the worst thing you could say about him is that he’s a Bit Odd. (And I’ve got no room to talk there.)
On the other hand, one could argue that creeping up between other people’s houses in the dark is, in and of itself, harmful. In fact, I’ll argue that right now.
So whoever it is, Neighbor and I agree, we have to put a stop to it. We could call the constable or the sheriff . . . but really, what are they gonna do? They might give our neighborhood an extra patrol for a morning or two, but that’ll be it.
“Tell you what,” I say. “I’m going to leave my driveway floodlights on for at least the next several nights. Whoever it is would have to go through that light to get between our houses, and I’ll bet it scares him off.”
“That sounds good,” Neighbor says.
That’s the end of the conversation, and I resume my stroll around my yard, smoking my Al Capone. But while I’m doing so, I wish I had thought to explain to Neighbor why my dogs wouldn’t have barked at someone between our yards at 5:00 AM. You see, the dogs don’t sleep in our back yard. They sleep on the floor in the master bedroom where Barb and I sleep, which is at the far end of the house from the wall that faces our Neighbor’s place. And we have an air filter and a CPAP machine running in the bedroom all night. So a Creepy Trespasser in the grassy strip between our house and our Neighbor’s would have to pound on a wall or break a window for the dogs to know he was there.
I wish I had explained this because . . . despite my chunky frame, I’m still worried that Neighbor might think the Creepy Trespasser was me. This bothers me almost as much as the thought that the Creepy Trespasser was there in the first place.
As a result of all this:
Now, before Barb and I go to bed, I turn on our driveway floodlights despite the kilowatt-hours they will waste by morning. I’ve also placed a lamp in front of one of the living-room windows that faces the grassy strip, and I’ve plugged it into a timer that will turn it on just before 5:00 AM.
We won’t have to leave the driveway lights on indefinitely, though. We’ve decided to install motion-activated floodlights at all four corners of the house as soon as possible. Among other reasonable precautions.
But I’m drawing the line at “reasonable precautions.” I ain’t putting up one of those “Trespassers Will Be Shot on Sight” signs at the edge of my property — of which there are more than a few around here. I still want to buy Girl Scout Cookies and Band Candy.
Just so the Girl Scouts and Band Kids don’t show up at 5:00 AM.
This morning, when I went for a run, I saw the man I suspect of being the Creepy Trespasser. He was standing weirdly stock-still in his driveway, watching me as I ran past. And for a brief moment, I thought about stopping and just asking if it was him — and if so, to please knock it off, okay?
But then I remembered how it felt when I realized my Neighbor thought the Creepy Trespasser was me . . . and how it felt when I realized there was no way I could really prove it wasn’t.
So I ran on by.
And you know, it probably isn’t him anyway.
But whoever it is —
If that person reads this blog (and he might), please knock it off, okay?
Don’t make me get out the wiffle bat.
And since this is the week for Rolling Stones clips, here’s “Midnight Rambler.”